In a joint operation, French and Spanish security forces arrested the presumed military chief of ETA and eight other suspected members of the Basque separatist organization at the village of Montauriol in southwestern France April 18. As part of the same operation, Spanish forces arrested a further six suspected ETA militants in the cities of Bilbao and Vitoria and the Basque Country town of Renteria.
Martitegi, 28, is believed to have replaced Aitzol Iriondo, who was arrested in France in December, as leader of ETA’s military operations. Iriondo had himself replaced Miguel de Garikoitz Aspiazu Rubina, who was arrested in France in November. A woman suspected of being an ETA militant, Itxaso Legorburu Madinabeitia, was arrested in the central French town of Mezieres-en-Brenne April 16. Another suspected militant with her managed to escape. (AFP, BBC News, April 18)
Meanwhile, following regional elections in Spain’s Basque countries in which pro-independence parties were banned, ETA said in a statement sent to the pro-independence newspaper Gara that it “did not recognize any democratic legitimacy of the new government which will be formed.”
The leader of the Basque Socialist Party, Patxi López, is set to become the head of the regional Basque government under a deal reached with the conservative Popular Party following the March elections. López, who will replace Juan Jose Ibarretxe of the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV), will be the first Basque premier to unequivocally back the region’s unity with Spain since it was granted wide autonomy in 1979. Although the PNV won more seats than any other party in the polls, it failed to secure a majority in the 75-member regional legislature. The Basque Socialist Party and the Popular Party combined have 38 seats—enough to end the nearly 30 years of PNV dominance. While the two parties do not plan to form a coalition, the conservative PP has pledged to support López as head of the regional government. The deal should be formalized in the coming weeks.
“Just as we warned that Ibarretxe’s government would be the government of fraud for any Basque nationalist, we now want to state that Lopez’s government will be the government of fascism and the violation of rights,” the ETA statement read. “As long as there is no change in behavior, the political leaders of that imposed structure will be ETA’s priority target.” (Deutsche Welle, April 12)